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There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.

dwarfed by what we can never know
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:33 am EDT, Aug 27, 2014

Tasneem Zehra Husain:

Personally, I've begun to think of knowledge as a fractal. Rich and intricate worlds lie between points that appear adjacent. The circumscribed area may well be finite, but the boundary is infinitely long. Out on the perimeter, we can walk forever and never run out of places to explore. What could possibly be better?


Noticing is easier in a foreign place because mundane things are unusual. It's the sameness of the familiar that closes minds.

Rishidev Chaudhuri:

I remember only vaguely the last place I lived, mostly facts rather than emotional textures or spiritual resonances. And, the facts themselves are elusive; when pinned down they emerge as false or inconsistent or, worse, meaningless without the substrate necessary to render them intelligible. And meanwhile the world around becomes ever more solid, losing the fingerprints of transience and history so that I barely remember what it was like to be new here, for things to not have always been the case, for me to have lived elsewhere or to have seen things differently.

Ed Caesar:

The clues that remain will always prove insufficient to our curiosity. Each archaeological advance yields more questions, and more theories to be tested. Our ignorance shrinks by fractions. What we know is always dwarfed by what we can never know.

Christopher Knight:

Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing -- when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.

being wrong is an integral part
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:50 am EDT, Aug 25, 2014

Mike Miley:

Not every truth ought to be lived with. Some truths must be overcome.

Ken Caldeira:

The class of things that we think we know but don't is bigger than we think.

Garret Keizer:

What Deborah Ball and Magdalene Lampert want teachers to understand is that being wrong is an integral part of mapping the terrain.

John Allemang:

It's always a balance. But just because we've got it wrong now doesn't mean we can't start to get it right.

Peter Stone, a political theorist at Trinity College, Dublin:

Sometimes, the danger of bad reasons is bigger than the loss of the possibility of good reasons.

Jonah Peretti:

When you think about the media industry, it's also, "How do you reach people and how do you get people to understand?" If you write something and nobody understands it, it's easy to be, like, "Oh those are all the dumb people." Sometimes writing something that's very sophisticated and difficult and technical for a particular audience is totally fine, but you should be able to communicate in simple language.

The thing is, there are dangers in this, because you can also explain something in a way that makes people feel like they understand it when they actually don't.

You can figure out a way to frame something and explain it so that it feels like it confirms what people already believe, including incorrect things they believe.

being mesmerized will have to do
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:50 am EDT, Aug 25, 2014

Mark Edmundson:

It pays, I believe, to distinguish between being absorbed and being mesmerized. Modern life avails one of plentiful opportunities to be mesmerized, enchanted, visually inebriated now: The condition is not hard to bring on. In a culture that asks us too often to "pay attention," we need rest and release, and we can find both through the mesmerizing powers of current electronic culture. Ideally, paying attention should be rewarded by absorption, but when absorption isn't found, or no one teaches us how to achieve it, then being mesmerized will have to do. Being mesmerized is all about wish fulfillment. It's about becoming the soldier, becoming the knight, becoming the sports star, becoming the princess. It is a turning away from reality. To be absorbed is to intensify one's connection with what is real with the hope of reshaping it for the better, if ever so slightly.

Eli Saslow:

Elias Pompa felt heartbroken for the two 15-year-old Guatemalans he had caught a few weeks earlier, buying lunch for them at Whataburger on the way to Border Patrol, even if it cost him $12.50 and a reprimand from a supervisor. He felt disgust for the drug cartels, which had memorized his shifts and sent a letter to the sheriff's office threatening the beheading of two deputies if they continued to interfere with human trafficking.

Pompa performed his work best, he thought, in the rare moments when he could put those issues aside and manage to feel nothing at all.

Christophe de Bellaigue:

It is a remarkable commentary on modern warfare waged by a democracy that a film like Korengal can be made, with the full cooperation of the US military, and without anyone getting into trouble for an excess of candor.

Desmond MacCarthy:

There is nothing to equal the heart-dampening sensation of being crushingly convinced by a crowd that it is only occasionally when people feel strongly that they feel like oneself.

I caught the idea which had been peeping at me, and the irony of it was enough to make one cry: few people experience so genuinely the sense that life is worth living which a feeling of brotherhood gives as when they are banded together to kill their fellow men; never are they so conscious of the humanity of others as when they are out together, sharing risks, to smash the self-respect and mutilate the bodies of those who might, but for a few politicians, just as easily have been fighting alongside them, hoping with them, dying with them side by side.

Francis Fukuyama:

The depressing bottom line is that given how self-reinforcing the country's political malaise is, and how unlikely the prospects for constructive incremental reform are, the decay of American politics will probably continue until some external shock comes along to catalyze a true reform coalition and galvanize it into action.

racing around to come up behind you again
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:31 am EDT, Aug 19, 2014

Maryam Mirzakhani:

You have to ignore low-hanging fruit ... Life isn't supposed to be easy.

Alexei Efros:

We think, 'This is Hollywood theatrics. It's not possible to do that. This is ridiculous.' And suddenly, there you have it.


Is our curse the endless pursuit of a happiness which can never be attained?

Cormac McCarthy:

Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.

Mason, Waters, Wright, and Gilmour:

And you run and run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Mia Wallace:

Three tomatoes are walking down the street -- a poppa tomato, a momma tomato, and a little baby tomato. Baby tomato starts lagging behind. Poppa tomato gets angry, goes over to the baby tomato, and squishes him... and says, 'Ketchup.'

more and more I wonder
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:31 am EDT, Aug 19, 2014

Roger Highfield:

The reality is that, despite fears that our children are "pumped full of chemicals", everything is made of chemicals.

Carl Zimmer:

Maybe the microbiome is our puppet master.

Richard Conniff:

If the microbiome is like a symphony, then adding in current probiotics may be the equivalent of performing the piano solo with your elbows.

Verlyn Klinkenborg:

Every now and then I meet someone in Manhattan who has never driven a car. Some confess it sheepishly, and some announce it proudly. For some it is just a practical matter of fact, the equivalent of not keeping a horse on West 87th Street or Avenue A. Still, I used to wonder at such people, but more and more I wonder at myself.

the path to the mother lode
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:31 am EDT, Aug 19, 2014

Andrew Solomon:

Most people imagine that resolving particular problems will make them happy. If only one had more money, or love, or success, then life would feel manageable. It can be devastating to realize the falseness of such tempered optimism. A great hope gets crushed every time someone reminds us that happiness can be neither assumed nor earned; that we are all prisoners of our own flawed brains; that the ultimate aloneness in each of us is, finally, inviolable.

Lev Grossman:

When you're depressed, when you're in bed and feel like you can't get out, you can't imagine doing work or accomplishing anything or anybody loving you. So when you look around you and you see these things happening to other people, they look like magic to you. They look that exotic, that strange, that impossible. And when you begin to crawl out of the pit and reengage with the world, it seems very magical. It felt as though getting out of bed yesterday was impossible, but now you're doing it. Just by returning to daily life, you're a magician.

Miranda July:

During this time I was careful not to think about my life. My life was far below us, in an orangey-pink stucco apartment building. It seemed as though I might never have to return to it now. The salt of his shoulder buzzed on the tip of my tongue. I might never again stand in the middle of the living room and wonder what to do next. I sometimes stood there for up to two hours, unable to generate enough momentum to eat, to go out, to clean, to sleep. It seemed unlikely that someone who had just bitten and been bitten by a celebrity would have this kind of problem.

That evening, I found myself standing in the middle of my living-room floor. I had made dinner and eaten it, and then I had an idea that I might clean the house. But halfway to the broom I stopped on a whim, flirting with the emptiness in the center of the room. I wanted to see if I could start again. But, of course, I knew what the answer would be. The longer I stood there, the longer I had to stand there. It was intricate and exponential. I looked like I was doing nothing, but really I was as busy as a physicist or a politician. I was strategizing my next move. That my next move was always not to move didn't make it any easier.

Jean-Louis Gassee:

There are caves full of riches but, most of of the time, I can't find a path to the mother lode.

Mallory Ortberg:

Run into a cave and break your ankle so that people have to come find you and they see you lying at the bottom of this beautiful cave and maybe there's a waterfall and the light from the crystals makes you look really beautiful and they say "Are you okay?" and you say "I think so" and they say "oh my God have you been here alone this whole time with a broken ankle" and you say "it's okay" and they say "you're so brave" and you are brave and you look so beautiful surrounded by cave crystals and everyone stands over you and says "oh wow" and "you poor beautiful thing" and "I'm so sorry we let you run into the cave but I'm so glad we found you" and let them carry you home and promise to be your best friends forever and that everything's their fault and also they named the cave after you and you're prettier than all of your enemies and your enemies all died of jealousy while you were in the cave.

make your own arrangements
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:31 am EDT, Aug 19, 2014

David Remnick:

Kleptocracies rarely value theoretical tracts. They value numbered accounts. They value the stability of their own arrangements.

Zadie Smith:

She had an idea that Oriental people had their own, secret establishments. (She believed the Jews did, too.) She both admired and slightly resented this self-reliance, but had no doubt that it was the secret to holding great power, as a people. For example, when the Chinese had come to Fatou's village to take over the mine, an abiding local mystery had been: what did they eat and where did they eat it? They certainly did not buy food in the market, or from the Lebanese traders along the main road. They made their own arrangements. (Whether back home or here, the key to surviving as a people, in Fatou's opinion, was to make your own arrangements.)

Andrew Browne:

His real concern is that to get ahead, he's had to make compromises with his principles (he doesn't say bribes, but that is what he means). "I've been forced to prostitute myself," he says, and now he worries that it could all be snatched away. In China, a weak, corrupt legal system may sometimes work in favor of entrepreneurs while they're clawing their way up, cutting corners along the way, but it is almost always a liability once they've made it.

Malcom Gladwell:

Six decades ago, Robert K. Merton argued that there was a series of ways in which Americans responded to the extraordinary cultural emphasis that their society placed on getting ahead. The most common was "conformity" ... The second strategy was "ritualism" ... There was also "retreatism" and "rebellion" ... It was the fourth adaptation ... "innovation." Many Americans -- particularly those at the bottom of the heap -- believed passionately in the promise of the American dream. They didn't want to bury themselves in ritualism or retreatism. But they couldn't conform: the kinds of institutions that would reward hard work and promote advancement were closed to them. So what did they do? They innovated: they found alternative ways of pursuing the American dream. They climbed the crooked ladder.

Alice Goffman:

Can we imagine a world in which the police in poor communities act not as an occupying force ... but instead as mediators of disputes, people residents can turn to for help and support, without fear of going to prison? If we stretch ourselves even further, can we imagine the police connecting residents to jobs and social services, rather than disconnecting them?

People on both sides of the aisle and on both sides of the courtroom now acknowledge that the criminal justice system needs a major overhaul. After four decades of zero tolerance and getting tough on crime, we seem poised for change. Can we seize the moment?

pick the notes you really mean
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:32 am EDT, Aug 15, 2014

Paul Ford:

People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don't have to have an opinion. You don't need to make a judgment. I know that doesn't sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation. And not being obligated is one of the sweetest of life's riches.

David Foster Wallace:

The traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default-setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it's going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who are all these people in my way?

Most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-lady who just screamed at her little child in the checkout line -- maybe she's not usually like this; maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of her husband who's dying of bone cancer, or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the Motor Vehicles Dept. who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a nightmarish red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible -- it just depends on what you want to consider.

Thelonious Monk:

When you look at the keyboard, all the notes are there already. But if you mean a note enough, it will sound different. You got to pick the notes you really mean!

a very good time to make a bet
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:32 pm EDT, Aug 11, 2014

Mary Meeker and Liang Wu:

The US government is currently experiencing the largest gap between revenue and expenses outside of WW I and WW II.

Dan Geer:

Things that need no appropriations are outside the system of checks and balances.

Is the ever-wider deployment of sensors in the name of cybersecurity actually contributing to our safety?

Or is it destroying our safety in order to save it?

William Drenttel:

It's better to be hired for your work than for your price.

Costin Raiu, Director of Kaspersky's Global Research & Analysis Teams:

In the future, we predict the number of small, focused 'APT-to-hire' groups to grow, specializing in hit-and-run operations; a kind of 'cyber mercenary' team for the modern world.

Lillian Ablon, a security researcher at the RAND Corporation:

The ability to attack is certainly outpacing the ability to defend.

Mike Rogers, House Intelligence Committee Chairman:

If anybody in the federal government tells you that they've got this figured out in terms of how to respond to an aggressive cyber attack, then tell me their names, because they shouldn't be there.

Chris Evans, of Google:

Now is a very good time to make a bet on putting a stop to zero-days.

Emily Dickinson:

"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see --
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

the insufferable irresistibility of a vacuous taste-making culture
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:42 am EDT, Aug  9, 2014

Jacob Kastrenakes:

Your bag of potato chips can hear what you're saying.

Alexis Madrigal:

The Starbucks latte, as it developed, became to its espresso+milk European ancestors what Panda Express is to high Sichuan cuisine: deracinated, but irresistible.

Washington Post:

Carmen Fuentes, the deputy scheduler for Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) is the type of foodie who could add Nutella to a Choco Taco.

Diana Vreeland:

We all need a splash of bad taste. No taste is what I'm against.

Jana Uyeda, 35, a photographer and social media consultant in Seattle:

I love my friends, but sometimes their taste in restaurants is terrible.

Yarek Waszul:

Tumblr, infectious as it may be, is symptomatic of a vacuous taste-making culture that thrives on fickle inside jokes and the immediacy of novelty qua novelty.

Will Blythe:

... as insufferable in their virtue as a teenage vegan ...

Adam Kotsko:

My local grocery store, in a pretty progressive neighborhood famous for its lesbian population, doesn't even bother to carry recycled paper towels.

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